Posted by By John nwokocha on
What I would say is that in the present situation, talking constitutionally, the governor cannot be impeached. Because he is standing trials.
What is your reaction to the plots to impeach the Bayelsa State Governor Chief Alameiyeseigha in absential?
What I would say is that in the present situation, talking constitutionally, the governor cannot be impeached. Because he is standing trials. Our constitution is very clear on that point. Even if the governor is convicted and he has an appeal pending, he will be entitled to contest for any position until the highest court in the land has decided the matter, it cannot be used against him. So the mere fact that he is standing trial in a foreign land cannot be a ground for impeachment. Unless he has committed any criminal act, but even at that, they would have to serve him the notice personally. They cannot serve him a notice while he is outside their jurisdiction. They have to wait for him to come back for them to serve him a notice and for him to answer their query. Furthermore, if an impeachment proceedings commence, it means that the deputy governor would vacate his office. Going by the clear provisions of the law, once he is impeached, there will be a bye election. There is a difference when the deputy governor is impeached and when the governor is impeached. The deputy governor does not take over the office. Another election would be held. The deputy governor can only take over the governorís seat, as was done in Harunaís case, when the governor either resigns or dies before the swearing-in. After the swearing-in, if the governor vacates office, there is no provision in our law that the deputy governor would take over. The deputy governor can only act in the absence of the governor.
How long can the deputy governor function as acting governor?
He can act as long as the governor is not occupying the office until such a time the governor comes back. But he cannot become a substantive governor. That is not part of our law.
Does the constitution not explicit on this that the governor will hand over property to the deputy to act as governor on his behalf in the event of long absence i.e. annual vacation?
The governor of Bayelsa is not on annual vacation. The governor is held against his will in a foreign country. And unfortunately his own country ó the Federal Government, had declared through the Attorney-General that they donít want him back in Nigeria. Itís not done. No matter what a child has done, you must not throw the child away with the bath water.
The governor may have committed a serious offence, but itís wrong for the Federal Government to disown him. It shows that the government cannot protect the citizens of Nigeria in and outside the country. Itís sacrilegious for the Federal Government to plead that its subject be held in a foreign land. Iím not saying that what the governor has committed is commendable. I think he deserves good measure of disgrace. I think he deserves a lot he has got. But it is sad to abandon him there. He still has the mandate of the people of Bayelsa, who elected him, why not allow him to return to his people and complete his term, after which he can be tried. Donít forget there is a presumption of innocence in our law, and I think we should not abuse or over flog it. If he has removed money (from his state), it is not British money it is Nigeriaís money. So, our government should have been more concerned with recovery of the money. Time does not run against the state. The way the governor is being abandoned by the government that should protect him is a disgrace on the country. If I were President Olusegun Obasanjo, I would ask the British government to release Alameiyesigha on bail to him and whenever he is needed, he (the president) will ensure that the governor is available for trial in London. That is an honourable thing for Mr. President to do.
It is a waste of time arguing whether they can impeach him. Unless they have to go through laws not yet known to us. And it is illegal. Letís look at a worse case scenario, assuming the governor is convicted, he has a right of appeal and once he is on appeal, he would be granted bail and still be in office.
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